A win before the international shutdown is vital says Preston North End boss

Preston North End manager Alex Neil has underlined the importance of tomorrow’s clash with Luton at Deepdale as he looks beyond the international break.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 8:00 am

Four games without a win have seen the Lilywhites slip to 16th place.

Although still 12 points clear of the bottom three, there are some tricky fixtures on the horizon.

Luton’s visit is followed by the international break and then come games against three of the current top four.

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Ben Whiteman could return to the Preston starting XI against Luton tomorrow

PNE host leaders Norwich on Good Friday, then go to Swansea on Easter Monday.

Brentford then come to Deepdale on April 10.

Neil said: “We need to get more points on the board, it is as simple as that. Luton is important because we have then got the international break coming up and we want to go into that with semblance of being positive and hopefully looking forward to the remaining eight games.

“After that break we have three of the toughest games we could have hand picked.

“We know those games are going to be tough.”

Neil will have to manage without skipper Alan Browne for the next three games.

PNE appealed against the length of the suspension for his red card at Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.

They did not argue against the dismissal itself but put forward grounds of mitigation for knocking a game or two off the ban.

An FA disciplinary panel rejected the appeal and Browne will not be available until the Brentford match.

Neil said: “We’ve got Ben Whiteman, Jay Molumby, Daniel Johnson.

“Alan is a difficult one for us to replace . He is the captain of the team and is a rare player in that he can do six, eight and 10 in midfield. He does it to varying degrees and I certainly know what he is best at.

“Off the back of losing Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson, we have needed someone to fill that void.”

Ledson is the ready-made replacement for the deeper midfield role which Browne has filled of late.

However, he has not kicked a ball since the derby win at Blackburn more than a 
month ago because of a calf injury.

In terms of him being fit in time for tomorrow, Neil said: “We’ll just have to see how we go with Ryan.”

As North End look to get off their poor run of form, Neil sees a reduction in mistakes as being key.

He cited the own goal from Jordan Storey for Middlesbrough’s opener as an example.

Said Neil: “I couldn’t bring myself to watch it back straight after the game.

“We need to cut out those mistakes to give ourselves a better chance.”